Genealogy Mtg. Monday Evening
Monday, August 17, 2009, 7 p.m. – Converting 35mm Slides to Electronic Format
Ron Young, a member of the Nevada County Genealogical Society, will present four different methods to convert your old slides and display them without the need of a projector. Ron will talk about how color shift in old slides can be corrected, and that 400 to 600 can be stored on one CD. These CDs can be played through your TV and copies can be easily made to send to relatives.
Ron specializes in computer applications of genealogy projects and has written many columns for local genealogy newsletters.
'Detectives' on the trail of family history
By Howard Shapiro Ha’aretz Thu., August 13, 2009 Av 23, 5769
PHILADELPHIA - The 1,000 people who came from all over to the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy are grandmothers and mothers, fathers and sons, professionals and retirees. And besides being Jewish, they all have one thing in common.
They are detectives.
Some, like Ann Francesconi of Tavares, Florida, have been on the trail of their extended family's past, as she said, "pretty much all my life." Francesconi's most recent discovery was the passenger manifest that pinpointed her son-in-law's Italian roots. "And when I found it, I went: Yes! Yes!" she said, reliving the "wow" moment of even the smallest find - which can lead to the next, larger discovery and, in turn, to sites that were towns before the Holocaust, or to places around the world where newly discovered family members live.
"Genealogists never die," declared the slogan on the T-shirt she was wearing. "They just lose their census."
Others, like Philadelphia freelance writer Stacia Friedman, have been tracing their roots for little more than a year. Friedman struck gold on her first trip to Philadelphia's National Archives office, when curiosity about her paternal grandmother led her to a document that listed the place where her great-uncle was born. "There are some moving borders; it might have been in Ukraine one day and Russia the next," she said.
No matter. The information placed a part of her family in a locale two generations back, and gave her more of a perspective. In very little time, Friedman was hooked and volunteering at the conference.
"We all came from somewhere," said Philadelphia-based author Estelle Carpey, one of the luncheon speakers at the conference, which began August 2 and ended August 7. Her forthcoming book, "A Piece of Heart," will tell the story of an aunt lost to the family for decades, then discovered.
"We all have a history," she said. "We have a culture. What your family went through, you have to put in the context of what the world was like at the time."
Those stories - and certainly that context - have drawn growing numbers of people of many ethnic groups to genealogy. They are searching for their pasts in a present that holds more opportunity, with new digital equipment and databases and, for those of Eastern European descent, more archives opening across the ocean as governments liberalize access.
"This is an attempt to connect with something larger than yourself," said David Mink, a Philadelphia restaurateur and international conference co-chair who wanted to give his children a sense of their ancestry, and thus began researching his family four years ago.
"I felt a desire to give the people not just names, but personalities," he said. "We are the results of everything that preceded us, I believe. There's probably a lot of my grandparents in me."
This was the 29th conference, which is now sponsored each year by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, a confederation of about 75 local societies around the world, and by the host society - in this case, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia. The convention tends to draw largely from the region where it is held and throws a spotlight on that locale's Jewish history. This year, programming about Philadelphia's Jewish community, among the nation's oldest, was abundant.
But there was also, it seemed, something for everyone, with more than 100 presenters, and stations that included information on DNA testing, databases, document searching and the Red Star Line, which sailed immigrants to Philadelphia and New York from Antwerp for 61 years, plus document translators and the requisite jewelry and handicrafts tables.
The keynote speaker was the Rev. Patrick Desbois, a French-born Roman Catholic whose dogged research has shown that after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, they killed about 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine. On August 2, the night Desbois was addressing the conference, cable's National Geographic Channel was broadcasting "Hitler's Hidden Holocaust," the story of Desbois' work in Ukraine.
Many sessions offered updates on digital research and documentation. "Technology is not really new to the conference, but it's gaining momentum - using Google Earth, for instance, to locate where family members lived," said Mark Halpern, the conference programmer. "We have a presentation by a man from Israel about using face-recognition technology to do genealogy."
Still, a session that offered basic tips on digital photography - how to shoot pictures of tombstones so that you can decipher the Hebrew, for instance - drew a full house.
The conference featured a newly compiled digital listing of information that could be a rich mine for some genealogists: It holds the contents of a never-released 1936 immigration bank book that tells who deposited money with which ticket agents for Jewish passengers coming from Europe at that time. The book was from the Rosenbluth company, a firm that eventually became a corporate travel agency.
The Holocaust, of course, is a reason for many Jews to begin researching their family histories - to fill in blanks about murdered relatives, or as a way to find information that their parents and grandparents perhaps knew but would not share. Sometimes, as conversations with participants demonstrated, people began researching simply because they knew little about their families in a Diaspora that extends back to the destruction of the Second Temple.
"My wife was introduced to a cousin she didn't even know existed," said Ron Lapid, one of about a dozen Israelis at the conference, recalling his drive to begin research.
Jeff Vasser, who handled the conference's publicity, found out that when he was growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, "cousins were living three blocks from me and I never knew." That started him on his research. ("What?" Vasser said he asked his dad. "Why didn't you tell me?" "You didn't ask," he said his dad replied.)
Jeanette Rosenberg, one of several attendees from London, simply wanted to learn "how lots of people we call Uncle-this and Auntie-that are related to me." Her research has united her with several newly found family members in Europe and the United States. She contacted them, she said, "and the rest is history."
History it is, indeed.
August 12, 2009 New York Times
U.S. Bares ‘Alien Files’ Kept on Immigrants
By JANIE LORBER
WASHINGTON — Immigration files containing a wealth of information collected by American border agents, some of it dating from the late 19th century, will be opened to the public soon and permanently preserved, providing intriguing nuggets about such famous immigrants or visitors as Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dalí.
But to millions of Americans, the real treasure will be clues about their own families’ histories in the photographs, letters, interrogation transcripts and recordings that reflect the intense scrutiny faced by those trying to enter the United States during an era when it waged two world wars and adopted increasingly restrictive immigration policies.
Under an agreement signed this year, the files, on some 53 million people, will be gradually turned over by the Department of Homeland Security to the National Archives and Records Administration, beginning in 2010. The material, accounting for what officials describe as the largest addition of individual immigration records in the archives’ history, will be indexed and made available to anyone.
At present, members of the public typically gain access to the documents, known as the Alien Files, by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. But that is a cumbersome process that can take months to produce documents — and even then only photocopies, not originals — and, says Jeanie Low, a private consultant to family historians, deters many amateur genealogists unfamiliar with navigating government bureaucracy.
That is how Thelma Lai Chang obtained the 103-page file detailing immigration officials’ interviews with her father, who immigrated from China as a 12-year-old in 1922. Under the Chinese Exclusion Act, most Chinese were then barred from entering the United States, and her father used a fake identity, claiming to be the son of a family already in the country.
“I cried because these are real documents,” said Ms. Chang, who keeps a copy of her father’s Alien File in her desk drawer at her San Francisco home. “All these years my dad used to talk about how he came, and this is proof to me of what he went through. I mean, all these questions for a little kid.”
The decision to preserve the files is a victory for historical and immigrant groups that had been concerned because federal regulations permitted the government to destroy them once they were 75 years old.
The files contain a trove of information for historians of all fields. The file on Dalí, for example, the Spanish Surrealist who fled to the United States at the onset of World War II, contains more than 40 pages of travel documents.
But the material will be particularly significant to the descendants of persecuted immigrants like Jews who fled Europe before World War II.
“For so many of us, this is all that exists,” said Rodger Rosenberg, whose great-grandparents escaped pogroms in Eastern Europe at the turn of the century. “So much was lost.”
The public demand for access to government records like these has been fueled by Web sites, including Ancestry.com and Footnote.com, that have made it easier for people to do research even if they have no formal genealogical background.
“Before, it was just microfilm, constantly microfilm, going through hours of microfilm,” said Adele Macher of Baltimore, who has been researching her family’s Italian roots for 17 years. Once started, the research becomes almost an addiction, Mrs. Macher said as she pored over a copy of her great-aunt’s Alien File, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
“This is like really putting a puzzle together,” she said, “and every piece that you find you want to find the next piece and the next piece and the next piece.”
Perhaps most exciting to researchers is that the files, which they will be able to see at the regional archives in San Bruno, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo., contain the original documents. Some include artifacts like wallets, 45-r.p.m. records and detailed maps that prospective immigrants drew by hand at the border to prove claims about where they came from.
“The bottom line is that you want as many original documents as possible,” said Schelly Talalay Dardashti, who writes Tracing the Tribe, a Jewish genealogy blog. “Each time something is written down, there is a chance of something getting screwed up. Each time a document is transcribed, mistakes will be made.”
Still, for many among a generation of immigrants who dodged the Chinese Exclusion Act by inventing their heritage or spinning elaborate tales of lost documentation, the accessibility is alarming. The exclusion act was repealed in 1943, but fears of deportation ran rampant in the 1950s, when, in the wake of the Chinese Revolution, McCarthyism tore Chinese immigrant families and communities apart.
Scarred by a period of what they recall as institutionalized racism, many aging immigrants refuse to discuss the Alien Files. They are afraid, they say, that lies told by young immigrants so many years ago and recorded in the files then could result in deportation now.
But officials of the Homeland Security Department say the files will be used for historical purposes, not law enforcement. Further, records will not be released until the immigrant in question has died or turned 100, and the names of the living will be redacted.
The files and immigration agents “have always been seen as the enemy,” said Jennie Lew, spokeswoman for a coalition that pushed for the new agreement. “We’re trying to make this the silver lining of years of discrimination.”
See You Monday Evening!